More than 200,000 will fail to get university places, Ucas chief warns


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The Independent Online

More than 200,000 university applicants will fail to get places this year, the head of the admissions service has warned, in a repeat of last summer's chaotic scramble following the publication of A-level results.

A "carbon copy" of last year's confusion, when 210,000 people did not get places, is inevitable, especially with record interest from teenagers ahead of increasing tuition fees next year, according to the University and College Admissions Service (Ucas).

The number of candidates who fail to get into university is expected to rise when results are published in two weeks. Disappointed teenagers will have to accept their applications were "not strong enough", said Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of Ucas, in an interview with i . Applications have increased by a further 1.4 per cent (9,000) but the number of UK university places available is still about the same.

There would, she commented, be "a lot of downward pressures" which could lead to a reduction in applications next year, the higher tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year being only one of them.

Ms Curnock Cook said those who fail to find a place on A-level day will have two choices: "one is to go into clearing and the other is to re-apply next year". Last year, 50,000 students found places during clearing.

"Some of them may have to realise their application wasn't strong enough," she said, "and others should definitely think about reapplying next year".

Those who try again next year will, face a higher-fees regime. One consequence of the new system, says Sir Steve Smith, president of the vice-chancellors' umbrella group Universities UK, is that universities will "buy" top students by offering them discounts.

Top students will be much sought after in the new system, he said: "One of the implications is that those students become like gold dust for their reputation. So you might have an incredibly strong series of incentives. They are going to have to work out if they start 'buying' AAB students."

Ms Curnock Cook said that, of the 210,000 students who had missed out last year, 97,000 of them had eventually received offers but declined to take them up. Around 83,000 had decided to re-apply this year.

"That left 113,000 who had no offer or did not specify an offer," she said.